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  • Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by Astrea at 11:48 on 06 July 2012
    Was just getting down to the nuts and bolts of planning my second novel, which was going to be, like the first, a contemporary women's fiction/mystery type thing, when inspiration actually struck for something completely different!

    I have been gripped by a mad (but I think fun and possibly commercial-ish - at least, marketeable) idea for a series set in the 1920s to 30s.

    I know longer have any living relatives with first hand knowledge of that era, but will happily buckle down and do lots of research (yes, my nickname at school was 'Swot' - how un-cool was that? )

    Can anyone point me towards any potentially useful sources of info? Looking for details of everyday life and I'm thinking well-off but not ultra well-heeled.

    many thanks in advance for any advice
  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by MPayne at 12:30 on 06 July 2012
    How strange, my dreams for my second novel are looking rather 1920s and 1930s based too. Must be Zeitgeist!

    I'm collecting a list of stuff to read (all way down the road for me, I'm still only midway through my first book) but they're mostly novels from the period and a few autobiographies. A couple of ideas though:

    For background on the thirties you could start with 'The Thirties: An intimate History' by Juliet Gardner.

    If you want to read novels of the period but aren't sure where to start you could look at 'A Very Great Profession: The Woman's Novel 1914-1939' by Nicola Beauman.

  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by Account Closed at 12:43 on 06 July 2012
    I have no advice to add - sorry - but to wish you good luck with your idea for a second novel, which must mean you've finished the first (well done!). I'm sure you'll pull your idea off.

    Good luck with subbing no.1

    I might read 'A Very Great Profession: The Woman's Novel 1914-1939' by Nicola Beauman - not that I'm interested in writing in anything but the modern day - but it does sound like an interesting book.



  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by EmmaD at 12:44 on 06 July 2012
    I'm just (I hope) in the final throes of a novel set in the 1930s... Must be in the air.

    The Gardiner is completely brilliant - weaves the personal and particular together with the largest historical and economic issues quite brlliantly.

    I'm sure there are some 1930s memoirs but I'm having a blank - although there will be tons in the bibliography of the Gardiner. You could browse the "biographies" section of a big library and find some people of the right age to be children then. For some reason it's the childhood part of memoirs and biographies that seem to have the best social history built into them. I suppose once people grow up and start on whatever life meant they ended up writing a biography, it stops seeming like history to them.

    Monica Dickens One Pair of Hands - she got sick of being a deb and went to work as a cook-general (i.e. only servant) for a series of employers in the sort of income bracket you'd be looking at.

    In fiction, - Elizabeth Bowen, my personal favourite E H Young, Rosamond Lehmann, (essentially, practically the entire Virago Modern Classics back catalogue ) Woolf of course, Vita Sackville West perhaps, Winifred Holtby,

    <Added>

    The Beauman books is good, though she doesn't like E H Young very much, which is a grave error of taste
  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by MPayne at 12:50 on 06 July 2012
    Woolf's fiction and diaries will pretty much be my starting point, nice familiar ground for me But I know she doesn't appeal to everyone.

    Just remembered this link I bookmarked yesterday - it isn't all academic, if you scroll down there's a list of fiction writers:

    http://www.lesleyahall.net/wmwrtrs.htm

  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by EmmaD at 14:21 on 06 July 2012
    Commercial fiction (see other thread) is often a better hunting ground in some ways - so, Christie, Marsh, Sayers, Allingham, Heyer - or whoever their equivalents are in other genres.

    Nicola Humble's The Feminine Middlebrow Novel 1920s to 1950s would be a great place to look for leads:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Feminine-Middlebrow-Novel-1920s-1950s/dp/0198186762

    It's a good read, as well as insulating you forever from Leavis-worship, if you needed it....

    And it's very social-history-minded, so it's probably got directly useful stuff - but I can't check because someone's waltzed off with my copy

    Emma
  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by saturday at 14:22 on 06 July 2012
    As Emma says, novels by people like Rosamond Lehmann might be useful (The Weather in the Streets is one of my all-time favourite novels) and there is a biography of her by Selina Hastings (although it's not all that good, and is more about the everyday lives of literary shagging folk, than anything more ordinary.

    You could also try some crime fiction that was written during that era - people like Margery Allingham or Dorothy Sayers - there is lots of incidental stuff about making coffee on a gas ring in one's room and the fact that single people get bored eating chops but don't really have the facilities to store/cook any other cuts of meat, which would have been utterly mundane at the time but adds a lot of period flavour for us, reading eighty years later.

    Also, Virago have recently republished some of Stella Gibbons's less successful novels. Something like 'Nightingale Wood' might be good because it is basically chick-lit that was written in the thirties and so full of trivial, everyday detail among the right sort of people.

    (Oops, sound as though I'm getting into character - 'the right sort of people!' I'll be talking about people like us and young marrieds next.

    <Added>

    crossed with Emma - we're both recommending sayers and Allingham, although I think Heyer's crime fiction is pretty dire unless you are really fascinated by the genre and/or the writer herself.
  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by EmmaD at 14:37 on 06 July 2012
    Yes, Heyer's crime fiction is dire - I don't read it though I love a) golden-age crime fiction and b) Heyer's historicals.

    although it's not all that good, and is more about the everyday lives of literary shagging folk, than anything more ordinary.


    And that's a bad thing? . But yes, I know what you mean really. Virginia Nicolson's Among the Bohemians is good for that end of society - and of course the world they lived in was the same, even if how they lived in it wasn't always.

    lots of incidental stuff


    That's what's interestingly different about writing hist fic, isn't it. It's in the stuff they don't specially comment o n- because it's normal and contemporary for them, but that's where the real riches lie for us.

    And you do see not-so-good historical fiction making too big a meal of the researched material. I think sometimes writers don't have the confidence to let trivia be trivial - they hang too big lanterns on things, too often, just in case anyone isn't convinced.
  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by Account Closed at 14:43 on 06 July 2012
    What sort of class? I love the Mitfords' diaries and letters but they are so specifically upper crust that they're not much use if you're writing about char-ladies and nippies.
  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by EmmaD at 15:15 on 06 July 2012
    Oooh - oooh - oooh - Frances Partridge's diaries - absolutely goldmine because being diaries they are about minutiae...

    Also if we're in Bohemia then Uncommon Arrangements, which is deliciously gossipy but also very interesting.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Uncommon-Arrangements-Marriages-Literary-London/dp/1844082717
  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by MPayne at 15:25 on 06 July 2012
    The Feminine Middlebrow Novel 1920s to 1950s


    That sounds fascinating from the amazon write-up - love that uses cookery books, child-care manuals and Mass Observation reports as well as well as the fiction. B-but I almost fainted when I the saw 85.85 price tag for the hardback!

    Uncommon Arrangements is great.
  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by EmmaD at 15:27 on 06 July 2012
    B-but I almost fainted when I the saw 85.85 price tag for the hardback!


    Bleedin' academic publishers!

    It did go into paperback - that's what I've got - so there must be some floating around the second-hand market somewhere, or in libraries.
  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by saturday at 15:37 on 06 July 2012
    although it's not all that good, and is more about the everyday lives of literary shagging folk, than anything more ordinary.


    And that's a bad thing?


    Oops, I was merging two different points, there:
    -the literary shagging thing, because I felt that might not be the kind of milieu Astrea was interested in
    -the not very good was because I didn't think it was terribly well written, It was quite ploddy much of the time, plus (pet peeve coming up, so feel free to ignore) I hate biographers who can't stop talking about themselves.
  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by MPayne at 15:37 on 06 July 2012
    Ah yes, just found the paperback on Amazon - 30 and four copies left if anyone's interested...
  • Re: Source books for novel set in 1920s anyone?
    by EmmaD at 15:40 on 06 July 2012
    I hate biographers who can't stop talking about themselves.


    God, yes - the biography which is actually life-writing...

    With much autobiographical life-writing, I find myself thinking, "Just remind me why I'm supposed to be interested in you?" And if it's supposed to be biographical it's even more annoying, because you didn't buy it for that in the first place.

    Doesn't sound like a satisfactory book in all sorts of ways. (Uncommon Arrangements is fantastic, if you are in the mood for literary shagging.)
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